By Scott Jaschik

In April, a union representing part-time adult education instructors at the City Colleges of Chicago agreed to a contract that based raises in part on student performance — a highly unusual arrangement in faculty collective bargaining. Observers debated the significance of the move, given that it was just one of a number of union chapters in a large community college system.
On Saturday, the American Federation of Teachers chapter that represents nearly 1,500 full-time professors and professional staff at the seven colleges in the system announced that members had voted to accept a contract that eliminates the “step” increases that reward seniority every year. The contract also creates a bonus system under which all of the faculty members in the union could earn bonuses based on eight metrics on student outcomes, such as graduation rates and movement from remedial to credit courses.
Historically, faculty unions in the United States with step increases have fought against most proposals to eliminate them, and many have been skeptical of linking pay to student outcomes, arguing that low graduation rates are more likely to reflect student socioeconomics than what goes on in the classroom.
The contract was passed with the support of 72 percent of voting faculty members and 80 percent of professional staff members. But many faculty leaders opposed the deal and the union leaders at two of the system’s campuses recommended that members vote no.
Tensions around the agreement are clear from the rhetoric around it, even after the union members approved it. While a spokesman for the college system spoke about how the contract de-emphasized seniority in favor of accountability, a spokesman for the union insisted that key protections for seniority remained.


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